The inside post position is never a good thing at Churchill Downs, but at least Jazil won't be trying to get close to the pace early. "He just wants to make his one run," says trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who got up for third last year with long shot Closing Argument. Smart bettors like Jazil for the way he finished strongly in the Wood Memorial under Jara, who was back up on the colt after a two-race absence. He is one of the closers worth looking at for a big price.
2 of 20AP
Trainer Danny Peitz, running his first Derby starter, says, "I've got a puncher's chance.'' Steppenwolfer, named in part for his dam, Wolfer, and in part for the band that recorded Born to be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride, is a one-run closer who will be flying at the end of the Derby and hoping that a speed duel up front kills off the more talented horses. That could easily happen. Use the Wolf in your exotics and crank up the vinyl.
3 of 20AP
After starting 2006 with back-to-back victories in Florida and then a game second in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 18, trainer Todd Pletcher's horse was made the odds-on favorite in the Wood Memorial. He faded in the final furlong, prompting speculation that he is a miler at heart. Perhaps he can someday be taught to milk his quickness for a longer distance, but is that likely to happen in a speed-heavy, 20-horse race under a jockey who thrives on getting horses to run fast?
4 of 20AP
Trainer Bob Baffert says this colt, the runaway winner of the Blue Grass Stakes three weeks ago, is "unrateable.'' That means that the Minister will be motoring from the jump -- or that Baffert is trying to snooker the field and win from the front like he did with War Emblem in 2002. Most likely scenario is that Sinister Minister and Sharp Humor run each other into the ground in the first half mile of the race.
5 of 20AP
Skinny: One of trainer Baffert's three solid starters in the field of 20, he will wear the green and yellow, University of Oregon silks of Beverly and the late Bob Lewis, the prolific owner who died in February. He has never finished worse than third in his six-race career. His father, Point Given, was the favorite in the 2001 Derby, but chased a hot early pace, finished fifth and went on to dominate the Preakness and Belmont.
6 of 20AP
With just three lifetime starts (and none as a 2-year-old), he is the least-raced horse in the Derby field. But his win two weeks ago in the Lexington Stakes was one of the most impressive performances of the season by any Derby starter. His trainer is the irascible Barclay Tagg of Funny Cide fame; his owners are Gretchen and Roy Jackson, who also own Barbaro. They are first owners in history to send two unbeaten horses to the Derby.
7 of 20Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Bob and John
Bob is Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who owns Stonerside Farm. John is John Adger, McNair's racing manager. The name is less than sexy. "People have a hard time getting serious about a horse with a name like that,'' says trainer Bob Baffert. Twice the horse was nearly sold, but now Bob and John is three-for-four this year, including a win in the Wood Memorial. That's sexy.
8 of 20Bill Frakes/SI
Trainer Michael Matz is an Olympic equestrian medalist and a plane-crash hero, but that won't help on Derby day. It will help that Barbaro is a tall, high-striding colt who hasn't lost in five career starts. The knock: He hasn't run in five weeks and no horse has won the Derby off a five-week or longer layoff since Needles in 1956. When the Derby starting gates open, Barbaro will have run one race in 13 weeks. He might have the talent overcome that.
9 of 20AP
One of two blindingly fast horses -- along with Sinister Minister -- who will be dueling for the early lead. It seems unlikely that this son of noted sprint sire Distorted Humor will survive the Derby's full 11/2 miles, but his gutty performance behind Barbaro in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby on April 1 gives any handicapper pause. He shouldn't have been able to run that far, either.
10 of 20AP
Trainer John Shirreffs, who sent 50-1 longshot Giacomo to his stunning victory in last year's Derby, is back this year with a better horse. A.P. Warrior, a $1.3 million yearling purchase, is the grandson of Seattle Slew and will chase the leaders from the middle of the pack. Good omen: He's living in the same stall that housed Giacomo last May, and starting from the same post position. And he has more talent.
11 of 20Bill Frakes/SI
Wins the honor as the most talked-about "wiseguy'' horse in the field. Under trainer Michael Trombetta, 39, making his first Derby start, Sweetnorthernsaint's dominant 91/2-length victory in the Illinois Derby four weeks ago was one of the most impressive Derby preps. Sweet is the only gelding in the Derby field; original trainer Leo Azpurua, Sr. decided to cut him after he ran wild prior to this career first start last August at Colonial Downs in Virginia.
12 of 20AP
Skinny: A distinguished 2-year-old who has been unable to duplicate that form as a 3-year-old. Private Vow won four of his six starts last year, but this year has been trounced by Lawyer Ron and company in Arkansas. Trainer Steve Asmussen expects improvement in the Derby, but he'll need a whole lot of improvement to contend.
13 of 20AP
When this son of the mighty Storm Cat (stud fee: $500,000) reeled off four consecutive victories between late September and mid-February, he looked like the horse that would bring Todd Pletcher his first Derby victory. Then he lost to the mediocre Deputy Glitters in the Tampa Bay Derby and was outclassed in the Blue Grass. Now he looks like an expensive horse that will prolong Pletcher's frustration.
14 of 20AP
His victory in the March 18 Tampa Bay Derby was reason to get excited. His dull sixth-place finish in the Wood Memorial was not. Trainer Tom Albertrani's colt also likes to run close to the pace, which will not be an advantage in this speed-heavy race.
15 of 20Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
In an intriguing, balanced field, Seaside Retreat begs to be tossed out. He hasn't won a race since last November and finished sixth in the Blue Grass Stakes, beaten a whopping 321/4 lengths by Sinister Minister. It's the first Kentucky Derby start for jockey Husbands and trainer Mark Casse.
16 of 20AP
Cause to Believe
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's Northern California closer had a crowded bandwagon until he was trounced by Sweetnorthernsaint in the Illinois Derby. Before that, this $30,000 2-year-old purchase had finished first or second in all nine lifetime starts. His jockey, Russell Baze, has more than 9,200 career victories, second only to Laffit Pincay Jr. in racing history.
17 of 20Bill Frakes/SI
One of the serious favorites, Lawyer Ron has the longest winning streak (six races) and the most experience (14 starts) of any horse in the Derby field. "He does things on the racetrack and you just wonder how he does them,'' says trainer Bob Holthus, 71. The X-factor is 24-year-old jockey McKee, who is riding in only his third Derby and will be called upon to make tough and quick decisions early in the race. Ownership of the horse was in flux until the last minute, as lawyer Ron Bamberger (for whom the horse is named) attempted to close a sale for the estate of James T. Hines Jr., the owner who died in February. The post position is not ideal and could leave the Lawyer hung outside on the first turn.
18 of 20Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The morning-line favorite has dominated California racing since last December by winning four consecutive stakes, including the Santa Anita Derby on April 8. A freaky-smooth runner who has simply galloped opponents into the ground with his high-cruising speed for wheelchair-bound trainer Dan Hendricks, Derek will face more pressure in the Derby than at any time in his career. Expect him to sit behind the speedsters, but not far behind. "We're not going to change him now,'' says Hendricks. The outside post position is even worse than Lawyer Ron's.
19 of 20AP
This horse is in the Derby because, where Derby Fever rules, a second-lace finish in the Blue Grass Stakes, 123/4 lengths behind Sinister Minister punches his ticket. Storm Treasure's other two starts in 2006 were a second-place in an allowance race and a dismal sixth in the Tampa Bay Derby. These are not the credentials of a Kentucky Derby contender.
20 of 20AP
What does Flashy Bull have in common with 2005 winner Giacomo? A lot: Son of 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull. Ridden by Mike Smith. Odds of 50-1 (Flashy Bull in the morning line, Giacomo at post time, but still...). Gray in color. One lifetime victory. Does lightning strike twice? Flashy Bull hasn't won a race since breaking his maiden in October and finished a soundly beaten seventh in the Florida Derby. Think very carefully before reaching for your wallet.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!